The region was part of the Roman province of Dacia and has retained its Latin speech despite the centuries of invasion and foreign rule. Greek, Slavic, Turkish, Jewish, and other elements have influenced its culture. Moldavia was part of the Kievan state from the 9th to the 11th cent. In the 13th cent. the Cumans, who then held Moldavia, were expelled by the Mongols. When the Mongols withdrew, Moldavia became (early 14th cent.) a principality under native rulers. It then included Bukovina and Bessarabia. Like its sister principality, Walachia, it was torn by strife among the boyars—the great landowners and officeholders—and among rival claimants to the throne. The rural population was reduced to misery and virtual slavery (which lasted well into the 19th cent.) by the princes, who ruled with absolutism and cruelty.
Moldavia reached its height under Stephen the Great (1457–1504), who in 1475 routed the Turks, but in 1504 it became tributary to the sultans. Although it was frequently occupied by foreign powers in the continuous wars among the Ottoman Empire, Austria, Transylvania, Poland, and Russia, Moldavia remained under the Ottoman Empire. S Bessarabia early passed under the rule of the khans of Crimea. Early in the 18th cent. the Turks ended the rule by native princes—who had sided with the enemy as often as with Turkey—and appointed governors (hospodars), mostly Greek Phanariots (see under Phanar). The Greeks surpassed their predecessors in avarice, while the nobility fell into total decay and corruption.
Greek rule was ended (1822) after the Greek insurrection instigated by Alexander Ypsilanti, and native hospodars were appointed. Meanwhile, Bukovina was taken (1775) by Austria and Bessarabia by Russia (1812). After the Russo-Turkish War of 1828–29, Moldavia and Walachia were made virtual protectorates of Russia (see Adrianople, Treaty of), although they continued to pay tribute to the sultan. A Romanian national uprising (1848–49) was suppressed by Russian intervention. In the Crimean War, Moldavia was again occupied by Russia, but in 1856 the two Danubian principalities, Walachia and Moldavia, were guaranteed independence under the nominal suzerainty of Turkey (see Paris, Congress of).
With the accession (1859) of Alexander John Cuza as prince of both Moldavia and Walachia the history of modern Romania began. In 1878, S Bessarabia was ceded to Russia following the Russo-Turkish War. Following World War I, Bessarabia, along with Bukovina, was reincorporated into Romania. In 1924 the USSR created the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic adjacent to true Moldavia. In 1947, the modern borders of Romania were established with the cession of Bessarabia and N Bukovina to the USSR. These two areas were joined with the Moldavian SSR and form what is now the Republic of Moldova. About 60% of Moldova's residents speak Romanian, and many Moldovans favor reunion with Romania.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.